(Disclosure: Rose Law Group represents Habitat for Humanity.)
By Brian Phillips | Capitalism Magazine
Across the nation, low-income families face a severe shortage of affordable housing. (Housing is considered affordable if it consumes 30 percent of less of a family’s income.) While there is widespread agreement that a problem exists, there is little agreement on the proper solution. Indeed, many of the proposed solutions conflict with one another and contribute to a worsening of the crisis.
The cause of this conflict and confusion is a flawed method for thinking about the problem. If we follow the wrong method in addressing any problem, the decisions that we make are unlikely to achieve the results we desire, and those decisions often lead to undesirable results. If we choose the wrong standard by which to judge alternative policies, or if we do not consider all of the relevant facts—the full context—we are unlikely to make the best decisions.
If we want to make the best decisions possible, then our thinking must be guided by a method that is founded on the proper standard of value and considers the full context. We must begin with the proper goal in mind, and then we must consider all of the relevant facts, including the pros and cons of the alternatives in light of that goal.
Most discussions of housing policy begin with the wrong standard of value. With few exceptions, some group—such as low-income families or the working class—serves as the standard of value. When the interests of the group are the standard, then the interests of the individual are subordinate to that group. The individual is regarded as relevant only to the extent that he sacrificially serves the group. Further, most discussions of housing policy focus on one particular aspect—such as “voucher discrimination”—and ignore the broader context. The resulting policies attempt to address one issue while ignoring the consequences of those policies on other aspects of housing.